27 January 2017

The Bible and the Cosmos (5): The Sky's the Limit

And in biblical cosmology, it really is the limit.

 According to the Bible, there is no "outer space." The heavens refer to "inner space," the dome shaped expanse above the earth.

In the book of Job, a passage seems to imply that  the dome of  heaven or sky is some type of material structure. One of Job's encouragers asks a rhetorical question contrasting God's greatness with Job's insignificance:

"Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?" Job 37:18

In this and several other passsages,  the Bible speaks of God "spreading" or "stretching" out the heavens.  The verb means to hammer our or shape. In most cases, its use seems to be metaphorical. The text in Job, however, clearly understands the heaven to be a solid substance likened to "a molten looking glass." In the ancient world, a mirror of this sort consisted of polished brass.

Perhaps this is why God can shake the heavens in his wrath, just like he can with the land:

"Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger." Isaiah 13:13

"For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;" Haggai 2:6

"Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth;" Haggai 2:21

The shaking of heavens, in the sense of "outer space," is difficult to imagine. Moreover, its visible effects would take millions of light years to arrive. The shaking of heavens, in the sense of a "dome" over the land, certainly would evoke the terror that God intends.

And what happens when God shakes the heavens? Why the stars fall to the earth!

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:" Matthew 24:29

"And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind." Rev. 6:13

This can happen because the stars--as well as the sun-- are only as large as they appear and somehow move across the polished brass dome of heaven.

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